Briefly Speaking from Chad

What am I doing in Chad? It is a question I have been asking myself a lot since I arrived a month ago in N’Djamena, Chad’s hot (45 degrees C°), dry and dusty capital. There are lizards everywhere and it is not unusual for them to crawl over people if they are in a hurry to get from point A to point B.

About N’Djamena

N’Djamena is one of a few cities in Chad and is spread out over several kilometers. It is divided into quartiers (neighbourhoods) and each quartier has a chef (chief). Some quartiers are safer than others. The city as a whole reminds me in many ways of the Delhi I used to visit as a child, before the growth of the Indian middle class changed its urban landscape. Like the Delhi of my childhood memories, the air here smells of roasted peanuts and somewhere in the distance, the sound of a radio can be heard.

The main roads are paved but the roads that branch off are dirt and gravel, making for slow and bumpy travel.  Small shops line the roads and children beg and peddle used water bottles filled with peanuts. There are also several open-air markets where you can stock up on staple foods such as fresh camel and fried crickets. As well, there are a few stores, restaurants/bars and hotels that cater to affluent Chadians and the expatriate crowd (an interesting mix of oil, military, UN and NGO types). Most homes that I have seen are basic one storey concrete buildings. Homes in the more affluent quartiers have water and electricity (most of the time), are enclosed by high walls topped with barbed wire or spikes and patrolled by guards.

To Be a Chadian

The 2013 UN Human Development Index, which measures development by combining indicators of life expectancy, educational attainment and income into one statistic, ranks Chad 184th out of 187 countries. The average Chadian can only expect to live until age 50.  Things are worse if you are a woman or child under five. Chad has the second highest maternal mortality rate in the world and for every 100,000 children born alive, 1100 mothers will die. Of those 100,000 children, 17,300 will die before they turn five. Even if they survive, chances are high that they will not be able to read and write and that they will grow up to be poor: 65.6% of the population is illiterate and 61.9% of the population lives below the international poverty line of $1.25 per day, even though Chad has been an exporter of oil since 2003.

About Chad

Chad, a former French colony in Africa, achieved independence in 1960. A large landlocked country (1,284,000 km2), it shares borders with Sudan, Libya, Niger, Nigeria, Cameroun and the Central African Republic. With a population of 12 million that is comprised of over two hundred ethnic groups, Chad is culturally and linguistically diverse. Chad is divided into 23 regions (split between desert and tropical), including the capital N’Djamena.

Ritu Gambhir

Nationality: Canadian
Country: Chad
Job: Humanitarian Affairs Officer